New Campus Corner restaurant brings Taj Mahal taste to Norman
Chuc Nguyen, The Oklahoma Daily
Students no longer need to study abroad in Mumbai or drive to Oklahoma City for authentic halal Indian cuisine with the opening of a new Campus Corner restaurant and grocery store.
Since mid-September, Spice & Rice, 770 DeBarr Ave., has offered Norman residents a menu including staple spices like curry and classic chai tea, but the foods’ array of tastes and textures offer insight into the many geographical, cultural and religious regions of the nation, co-owner Shamim Merchant said. Indian food varies in taste across northern and southern portions of the country, Merchant said.
Spice & Rice’s menu combines those regional differences, with one of the best-selling dishes being chicken tikka masala, a chicken and rice dish cooked in an herb and tomato sauce, she said.
Filling all 15 chairs around lunchtime, Spice & Rice also offers shelves of spices, lentils and chili powders for customers to take home. Despite the slight differences, the key ingredients of Indian food are the various spices and rice, Merchant said.
“If I don’t eat even a couple of bites of rice, I don’t feel full,” Merchant said.
Multidisciplinary studies sophomore Anjum Hussain knows Shamim Merchant from their mosque in Oklahoma City. Cinnamon, cloves, “zeera,” turmeric, red chili peppers and garlic are other familiar Indian spices with which the cooks of Spice & Rice know how to season their dishes perfectly, Hussain said.
“You know Indian food is at its best when there’s a mom involved,” Hussain said. “The food tastes exactly how she makes it in her own home: nothing less than nostalgic and delicious.”
Merchant’s husband, Kabir, always had the dream of opening a restaurant, even without any experience in Mumbai or the couple’s five and a half years in Norman, Merchant said. Kabir, who manages the Campus Corner Market next door to Spice & Rice, regularly was asked by customers and students about fresh Indian food, Merchant said.
That freshness is translated as “halal,” which is a Muslim religious term similar to “kosher” in the Jewish tradition, Merchant said. All meat, except for pork, is completely “halal,” meaning “permissible” in Arabic, according to the Halal Food Authority. There is a prayer said before slaughtering the animal, and the animal must have been fed organically throughout its life, according to the website.
As the only “halal” observant restaurant in Norman, Spice & Rice has done well in its first month and a half of business, Merchant said.
The Spice & Rice team plans to expand the menu with the increase of business to cater a greater diversity of dishes, but Spice & Rice already is enjoying the diversity of student customers entering its doors six days a week, Merchant said.